You all know the drill, rookies barely play under the Marvin Lewis coached Cincinnati Bengals, but every once in awhile, you’ll see one or two make a couple of splash plays. Rarely are they, however, put in position to greatly impact the course of how the game plays out. But if the circumstances allow it, it can happen, even in Week 1. So how did the Bengals’ rookies do in their first regular-season contest of the year, a tough matchup on the road against the New York Jets? Let’s dive right in.
While taking 44 of the 57 total offensive snaps, Boyd saw four targets come his way and came down with two of them for a total of 24 yards. It was a modest debut for the rookie wide receiver who is going to be eased into the offense as the year goes, but it did not start out so well.
While coming off his break on a deep out route in the middle of the first quarter, Boyd saw his first regular season pass come his way from quarterback Andy Dalton. Unfortunately, Jets cornerback Marcus Williams stepped in front of the pass and intercepted it.
The fault of the turnover lies with center Russell Bodine, who allowed pressure off his assignment that forced Dalton to make an errant throw into an occupied deep zone. But Dalton himself is to blame as well for trying to force a long throw into traffic on 3rd and 15.
Focusing on Boyd however, he transitions from his vertical stem well as he executes a nice speed cut, but the roundness of his break puts him out of position to make a play on the ball against Williams, and he finds it too late.
It should be noted that Boyd ended up getting up and making the tackle on Williams before he got too far downfield. For a rookie playing in his first game, good effort shouldn’t go unnoticed.
Boyd would not see another pass until the first play after the two-minute warning in the second quarter, when he caught a bubble screen and ran for 10 yards, moving the Bengals across midfield and into Jets territory.
Later in the same drive, Boyd was targeted on a go route from the slot and was interfered with by Jets cornerback Buster Skrine, which moved the Bengals up to the Jets’ 18 yard line. His second and final catch came about a minute later, snagging a 14 yard tightly contested pass off a dig route over the middle that brought the Bengals to the three yard line.
After making the grab, Boyd and the rest of the offense rushed off the field with 11 seconds left in the half as the field goal unit hurried past them onto the field and quickly executed a 21 yard field goal as time expired, reducing the team’s deficit to just three points in a game where they won by one.
Boyd’s stats may not “wow” you in the box score, but his 24 yards receiving and 25 awarded penalty yards were imperative to the team’s final drive in the first half, and helped them get points that were needed for them to come out on top.
Everyone’s sweetheart from this past preseason recorded his first kickoff and punt return in his first actual game, and both of them, interestingly enough, went for 15 yards.
Neither were particularly flashy, as both times, the Jets’ special teams unit took care of all lanes for Erickson to work with, but he looked comfortable rotating with starting return man Adam Jones. Erickson also took a fair catch on his second and final punt return opportunity. Erickson was only active on special teams and took no snaps with the offense. Hopefully, we see him get more advantageous opportunities to utilize his return skills in the coming weeks.
Coming off a strong preseason as well, Vigil saw the field once on defense and recorded a tackle on Jalin Marshall’s kickoff return to start the second half.
The Bengals lined up in nickel formation, meaning five defensive backs and two linebackers, for the vast majority of the game, so it was hard for any of the linebackers besides the two starters in nickel, Vincent Rey and Karlos Dansby, to get on the field. In games like this, it’s going to take an injury to get Vigil playing time, and while I think he’s capable of playing well early on in his career, nobody wants to see an injury.
These three rookies will get opportunities to contribute in some way against the division rival Pittsburgh Steelers for the first time in their careers. And for Boyd, the man who grew up just outside of Pittsburgh in Clairton, Pennsylvania, and played college ball at Heinz Field for the University of Pittsburgh, he assumes the biggest role of the three as the slot receiver. The team is counting on him to make the most of his opportunities to in order to get to 2-0.